Everton stadium project cited as Liverpool loses World Heritage status

Mayor of Liverpool, Joanne Anderson, has slammed UNESCO’s decision to revoke the city’s World Heritage status amid concerns over developments at its waterfront, including the new stadium for Premier League football club Everton.

UNESCO’s World Heritage Committee made the decision today (Wednesday), with 13 votes in favour, five against and two being deemed invalid. The property ‘Liverpool – Maritime Mercantile City’ will now be deleted from the World Heritage List, due to what UNESCO claims is the “irreversible loss” of attributes conveying the “outstanding universal value” of the property.

Liverpool – Maritime Mercantile City was inscribed on the World Heritage List in 2004 before being placed on the List of World Heritage in Danger in 2012 following concerns about the proposed development of Liverpool Waters.

UNESCO said: “The project has since gone ahead along with other developments both inside the site and in its buffer zone. The Committee considers that these constructions are detrimental to the site’s authenticity and integrity.”

Liverpool’s historic centre and docklands were inscribed for bearing witness to the development of one of the world’s major trading centres in the 18th and 19th centuries. The site also illustrated pioneering developments in modern dock technology, transport systems and port management.

UNESCO’s decision makes Liverpool only the third property to lose its World Heritage status since the list began in 1978, after the Elbe Valley in Dresden, Germany (2009) and the Arabian Oryx Sanctuary in Oman (2007).

UNESCO added: “Any deletion from the World Heritage List is a loss to the international community and to the internationally shared values and commitments under the World Heritage Convention.”

Everton confirmed this month that construction on its new 52,888-capacity stadium at Bramley Moore Dock will begin on July 26. Everton will take possession of the site on that date, with contractors Laing O’Rourke to immediately begin the first phase of the project, which will see enabling works carried out to prepare the dock site in readiness for the build.

The stadium is expected to deliver a £1bn (€1.16bn/$1.36bn) boost to Liverpool’s economy and provide up to 15,000 jobs for local people, including 12,000 during the construction phase. It is estimated that the stadium, which will cost £500m, will attract 1.4 million visitors to the city.

Everton was officially cleared to begin work on the stadium in March after its planning application received Government approval. Liverpool City Council’s Planning Committee unanimously approved the plans on February 23.

Anderson said today: “I’m hugely disappointed and concerned by this decision to delete Liverpool’s World Heritage status, which comes a decade after UNESCO last visited the city to see it with their own eyes.

“Our World Heritage site has never been in better condition having benefitted from hundreds of millions of pounds of investment across dozens of listed buildings and the public realm. We will be working with Government to examine whether we can appeal but, whatever happens, Liverpool will always be a World Heritage city. We have a stunning waterfront and incredible built heritage that is the envy of other cities.”

In April, Everton made further moves to showcase the history of its new stadium site at Bramley-Moore Dock by outlining plans to breathe new life into a derelict hydraulic tower. Everton lodged an application for Listed Building Consent to Liverpool City Council. 

The plans would see the 138-year-old Grade II listed tower become part of the new stadium’s Fan Plaza and house an exhibition or cultural centre celebrating Everton’s heritage, as well as that of the city’s docklands. A café area is also proposed as part of the renovation. 

Everton revealed amendments to its initial stadium plans in August last year following objections from heritage groups. Changes included a river-facing plaza and the removal of the multi-storey car park at the West End of the stadium.

Liverpool’s World Heritage status has been in doubt for a number of months and Anderson said she found it “incomprehensible” that UNESCO would rather Bramley Moore Dock remain a “derelict wasteland”.

She added in a blog post: “On the issue of Bramley Moore Dock, it was pointed out to UNESCO that Everton Football Club was investing £50m in the historic assets of the area. And by building a stadium there, people will for the first time be able to visit the dock, walk around it and learn about its past.

“The stadium is a win-win. The investment will revitalise our North Shore community, one of the poorest parts of the city – and England – and will inform and educate people about Liverpool’s story and how it shaped the world.

“For some reason, this did not resonate with UNESCO, which I find peculiar given that as a body of the United Nations, a couple of their primary aims include education and sustainable development.”

Image: Everton